Wheelchair Joe: The first night

Now Abby, you’ve had a chance to meet with all these charming young men and we’ve given you some time to think about it. Now you have to narrow your selection down to just four suitors. Have you made your decision, Abby?

Abby: “Yes, I have.”

Was it difficult?

Abby: “Yeah, it was. All the guys were really nice and a lot of them were really cute. It was hard to just pick four.”

So Abby, who is your first choice?”

Abby: “The first guy I picked because he seemed like one of them most intelligent people I’ve ever met. Plus I’m a science teacher so I really respect people who are interested in math and science. He also seemed like a really nice guy. My first pick is Jamie.”

All right, Abby. Who is your second choice?

Abby: “The second guy I picked just seemed like a real sweetheart all around. He was a genuine guy all around and he was really interested in making me laugh and even trying to get the other people around him to have a good time too. My second pick is Ethan.”

All right, Abby. Now for your third choice…

Abby: “This was a hard decision. I picked this guy because I love romantic types and he made an effort to make me feel special. Also, I’ve got a weakness for redheads. My third pick is Noel.”

Okay, Abby. Only one choice left…

Abby: “My final choice is quite simply the best looking guy I’ve ever met. It’s Harrison.”

Great choices, Abby. Now over the next few days, you’ll be staying in this house with these four men. You’ll have a chance to get to know them better both in an individual and a group setting before you make your final decision. Good luck, Abby.


The four men were paired off to share rooms together. Harrison was sharing his room with Ethan, the young guy who walked with heavy braces. Ethan was very polite and seemed nice enough, but no matter what Harrison figured he at least had to be better than Noel.

Ethan: “I’m 22 years old and I was born with spina bifida. I recently graduated from the local college and I’ve been living at home and thinking about what I want to do with my life. I’m not really all that experienced with women, but I think Abby is great.”

Steve helped Harrison move his bags into the room while one of the crew members helped out Ethan. Ethan wore thick metal braces on both legs and used metal crutches that closed around his forearm. He seemed very proficient with the crutches, but he also brought a wheelchair with him. “By the end of the day, my arms are usually killing me,” Ethan explained.

Ethan seemed a little bit too childish compared to the other men. Aside from the fact that he was barely out of college, his sandy hair and bright blue eyes made him seem very innocent. Inside the room, he started looking in all the drawers and closets, getting excited by the stacks of pillows and free pens in the drawer.

“This place is great!” Ethan commented happily.

“I guess,” Harrison said. Ethan’s excitement was infectious, but he was still having trouble getting worked up about free pens.

“This is only the second time I’ve stayed away from home,” Ethan admitted as he unlocked his braces and collapsed onto the bed. “It feels so strange.” He loosened the metal braces, rubbing the skin of his legs. His legs, as far as Harrison could see, were very thin and short. Even when Ethan was standing up, he was not much taller than Harrison was in his large wheelchair.

Harrison watched Steve unpack his clothes from the suitcase. The network had insisted on paying for a new wardrobe for Harrison to wear on the show. Around the house, he usually wore sweatpants and T-shirts, but now he had two drawer-fulls of nice clothes to wear. The studio had paid for a tailor to come over and measure him for custom-made clothing.

“That Abby seems really nice,” Ethan said. “I think this is going to be fun. Don’t you think so, Harry?”

Harrison shook his head. “I don’t know. I’m beginning to think this was a mistake.”

Ethan’s eyes widened. “How come?”

“Don’t you think they’re exploiting us a little bit?”

Ethan frowned in confusion. No, Ethan didn’t understand. He had been disabled his whole life and he didn’t know what it was like to be on the other side of things. He didn’t understand that people were going to watch this show just to laugh at the freaks. “I don’t know what you mean,” Ethan said.

“Never mind,” Harrison muttered.


That night, the four men were scheduled to have dinner with Abby. Harrison had discussed this with the network, since he had to tell them that he would be unable to eat his food without help from Steve. When he told this to the producer of the show, the guy asked, “Are you sure?” Harrison wanted to punch him when he said that. It wasn’t like Harrison enjoyed having his parents feed him every day… it wasn’t like he did it for kicks.

Finally, they determined that they would put a full plate of food in front of Harrison and one of the staff would systematically take pieces of food off his plate when he was off camera, so it would look like he was eating his food. They would purposely seat him away from Abby so they could pull this off surreptitiously. Of course, that might fool the viewers, but Abby would still see the whole thing.

Harrison and Ethan arrived at the table first. Ethan was looking a little worn out but he confided in Harrison that the network had told him not to use his wheelchair if he could help it… there were already three guys in chairs, so they wanted him to stand out. Noel and Jamie wheeled out shortly after. Jamie was a double amputee with most of his legs completely gone.

“How is your room?” Ethan politely asked Jamie and Noel.

Jamie shrugged and smiled. He was quiet and wore glasses. According to Ethan, Jamie was a PhD candidate in mathematics.

“It’ll do,” Noel said. “But I’d rather be staying in Abby’s room.”

One of the cameramen approached them. “You look fine, guys,” he said. “Jamie, can you lose the glasses?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess so,” Jamie agreed.

Harrison felt a flash of anger. First they were telling Ethan he couldn’t use his wheelchair and now they weren’t letting Jamie wear his glasses. What next?

They filmed Abby entering the room and sitting down at the table with them. Harrison’s jaw dropped open when he saw the tight dress she was wearing. Abby was absolutely stunning. It seemed unfair to torture them with a woman like that.

“Did you guys move in yet?” Abby asked them as the actor/waiter served them their meals and filled their glasses with wine. Harrison looked down and saw the steak on his plate and thought it was too bad he wouldn’t be eating it.

“Yup, me and Harry are all unpacked,” Ethan said.

“Where are you staying, Abby?” Noel asked. “They gave you a room here, right?”

“Yes, of course,” Abby said. “I’m all by myself though.”

“Not upstairs, I hope,” Noel said, gazing straight into her eyes.

“No,” Abby flushed slightly. “I’m, uh… right down the hall.”

Noel smiled at her. “Wonderful.”

Abby looked away from him and turned to Harrison. He felt uncomfortable having her attention directed toward him. He felt the camera lens pointed at his face. “So Harrison,” she said, “who were you named after? Indiana Jones or the Beatle?”

Harrison smiled. “Neither. Harrison was my mother’s maiden name.”

“You sort of remind me of Indiana,” Abby said, “you’ve got that rugged look of an adventurer.”

“Do I?” Harrison looked down at his limp arms, which were now covered by a gray suitjacket.

“Hans Solo was my hero when I was a kid,” Ethan said. “I think Hans could kick Indy’s ass.”

“Yeah, well I think Ringo could kick both their asses,” Noel commented.

Abby giggled. “I don’t know. What do you think, Professor?” She was looking at Jamie.

Jamie smiled self-consciously. “I’m not a professor yet. I’m still working on my thesis.”

“What’s it on?” Abby asked.

“Volume minimizing submanifolds of R7,” Jamie replied.

“Whoa,” Abby said. “I can’t say I know anything about that.”

“Yeah, past R5 I’m pretty much lost,” Noel said.

“It’s not that interesting,” Jamie said apologetically. His face turned a little red.

“You have very nice eyes, you know,” Abby said to him.

“No, I don’t,” Jamie mumbled. “I’ve got funny eyes. My mom is Korean.”

As Jamie and Abby talked, a staff member came over and cut off half of Harrison’s steak and took it away. Noel was watching the whole thing with furrowed brows. “What the fuck was that?” he whispered to Harrison.

“They don’t want to film someone feeding me,” Harrison whispered back.

Noel made a face, but didn’t say anything more. It was true that there was something very phony about this meal. They were talking about Harrison’s name and Jamie’s eyes, but the subject of their disabilities never came up, even though Harrison was certain that was the first thing on Abby’s mind.

“I love half-Asian guys,” Abby said to Jamie. “It’s very sexy.”

Jamie was blushing a deep shade of red. “Thanks,” he said.

Abby turned to Ethan then and started asking him questions about his future career plans. The staff member came over and cut off a little more of Harrison’s steak and poured out some of his wine. Noel looked at the guy in irritation. Harrison knew why Noel was upset, but the truth was he preferred to do things this way. It would have been worse to have Steve onscreen feeding him.

“I’d like to call attention to something,” Abby spoke up, abruptly ending her conversation with Ethan. She stood up and picked up her chair. She moved it over so that she was sitting right next to Harrison. “You’re not fooling anyone,” she said to him in a soft voice.

Harrison stared at her. “I didn’t mean to…”

Abby leaned over and cut a small piece of his steak. She speared it with the fork and held it up to Harrison’s mouth. “Here,” she said.

Harrison looked into Abby’s eyes and saw no sympathy, only determination. He leaned forward and bit the steak off the fork. It was delicious.

She held up his glass of wine to his lips. She slowly tipped it back and Harrison drank eagerly. He let his lower lip curl around the glass in an attempt not to spill, but a lone drop escaped and dribbled down his chin. Abby picked up his napkin and gently wiped it away.

Abby looked over at the man who had been cutting away Harrison’s food. “You’re not allowed over here anymore,” she told him. “I’m taking over.”

Abby: “I just got angry when I saw them taking away Harrison’s food like that. I mean, he was hungry too. If they want to show a realistic picture of disability, they shouldn’t try to fool the audience. This is what Harrison does every day of his life. They shouldn’t hide that just because it might upset someone.”

Tomorrow you’re going to have your first private date with one of the men. Are you excited?

Abby: “Yeah, definitely. They’re all great guys. I can’t wait to get to know them a little better.”

Do you have a favorite right now? You don’t have to say who it is.

Abby: “I might. But I still feel like I have to get to know them better before I say anything.”

Stay tuned for Abby's first date with a suitor.